President's Column - November 2017

Shalom. The contemplation and exhilaration of the High Holidays are now behind us. They were polished off by wonderful and lively Sukkot and Simchat Torah celebrations with perhaps 100 congregants at each service, many of them children from our Religious School. What now? Nothing until Chanukah? Actually TBT does not shut down after the High Holidays and has a full slate of services and activities ahead of us this fall.

In addition to weekly Shabbat services and Torah study, Jewish Mindfulness & Meditation will have another Saturday morning session November 4, and the TBT Book Club continues to meet on the third Thursday of every month (see the Shofar for details). Lessons in Hebrew reading start on November 12, as a prelude to next January’s Torah Chanting class. And the can’t-miss event of the Fall is this year’s Scholar-in-Residence weekend: TBT will be blessed when Rabbi Deborah Zecher brings her love of Broadway and Bible to TBT. At the Friday, November 17 service, Rabbi Zecher will present a “Sermon in a Song.” Then on Saturday, November 18, from 6:00-9:30pm, join your fellow congregants for dinner, Havdalah, and Rabbi Zelcher’s presentation on “Broadway Bible,” combining rabbinic insights with her knowledge and performance of Broadway show tunes. Forget an expensive trip to New York and come to Broadway in Madison instead. Free to congregants (and non-members can come with a contribution). Just let the office know you’re coming.

There will also be multiple opportunities this Fall to learn and socialize with members of other synagogues. The URJ’s Biennial Convention is in Boston December 6-10, and already seven TBT members (perhaps a record!) will be going to join with thousands of other Reform synagogue members nationally. Registration is still open. Several of our teen members of the SALTY Youth Group will be attending the regional BBYO Convention in Danbury on November 10-12. All in all, a busy and fulfilling Autumn at TBT.

- Jeff Babbin

Rabbi's Column - November 2017

The month of November has only one Jewish holiday in it: Thanksgiving. “Wait,” you say, “Thanksgiving? That’s not a Jewish holiday!” True, it is not technically a part of the Jewish calendar, but it is, though secular, one of the most Jewish of holidays. It is Jewish because it is based upon two of the most Jewish of values: THANKS and GIVING.

Judaism teaches that we are to give thanks every day. There is so much to give thanks for, even in times of trouble. Judaism also teaches that the act of giving - of ourselves, of our good fortune, of your monetary resources - is a spiritual discipline.

This particular Autumn has been about as gorgeous as Autumn gets here in New England. While we have been enjoying beautiful weather, we are keenly aware of other places and other people who have not been as fortunate as we have been.

At this season on Thanksgiving, I want to give you the opportunity to express thanks for our good fortune by giving to others who are in need. There is a long list. We continue to focus our concern upon those affected by hurricanes in Florida, Texas, and the Carribean, and those affected by the dreadful wildfires in California. Those disasters hit close to home when we learn of people we know or communities we connect with that are suffering.

Our Jewish community suffered a dreadful loss as the Reform Movement’s Camp Newman burned to the ground in Santa Rosa, California. I spent many years in leadership at URJ Camp Swig, which was the precursor to Camp Newman. Fortunately, no lives were lost at Camp Newman, but when I think of the summer spirit and all those facilities teeming with the joys of Jewish children, I shudder for their breathtaking loss. We can help rebuild our Reform Jewish Camp Newman by going to to lend our support.

We are also well connected to the synagogue in St. Thomas where my colleague, Michael Feshbach, serves as Rabbi. He writes:
“I am grateful that the damage to the synagogue itself was limited, although it was significant. We lost all our machzors, most of our haggadot, some our our siddurum, cabinets and other furniture in the museum, extensive damage in both of our historic cemeteries. We may have lost our keyboard and we have water pumps and perhaps a generator switch which needs to be replaced. We double-wrapped the scrolls during both storms (some of which were saved from the fire in our building in 1831!) but were taken by surprise by the Kol Nidrei night deluge. We found a damp ark and ruined white materials the morning of Yom Kippur. One scroll was slightly wet; we believe it is not permanently damaged. We have real damage and need support, but we know things could have been much worse. We must take care not to let there be too long-lasting damage to the spirit of the place. And we know we can come back better than we were.”

Those interested in helping can go to the Facebook page “The Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas” or to their webpage at

We are a small but mighty people. “Kol Yisrael Eruvin zeh b’zeh,” we are all connected to one another. At this season of Thanksgiving, we show our thanks by giving to those in need.

Rabbi Offner

President's Column - October 2017

Shalom. We have reached another new year on the Jewish calendar - a time of renewal, a
time for reflection. Many of us in Connecticut are fortunate to be able to celebrate this time of year in our homes and in our synagogues. But we cannot ignore the news coming from other parts of our continent, where homes and synagogues are damaged and people are taking shelter in unfamiliar places. Thankfully, the Jewish community is united in times like this, with synagogues in neighboring but safe states helping to find shelter for those who fled their homes and Jewish organizations assisting with relief efforts.

The focus on the news media is on damage to buildings. What is important about a building? Isn’t a building just a structure, with roof, floor, and walls? Can’t it just be rebuilt after a natural
disaster? But, of course, a building is much more than that. We are often attached to our homes for reasons that go beyond architecture or the materials used in its construction. Our homes are where we connect with family and friends - creating a small community within the larger one; it is where we return for rest after a weary day of work or school; it is where we dream for the future and make plans.

In Madison, we all have another house - a house of hope (Beth Tikvah). TBT also provides a community within a larger one, and where many of us go for reflection, spiritual nourishment,
and companionship. But we as a synagogue are not turned only inward, as we also examine our relationship to the outside world and strive to improve that world for Jews and non-Jews
alike. Like all households, we have rules (although these go back thousands of years), which provide a helpful structure for living a good and meaningful life. It is my hope that we all work together in the year ahead to make a difference, whether it’s in one person’s life or the world at large. If we do that, then we have taken what is made of wood and other common materials and truly made it a synagogue.

Jeff Babbin

Rabbi's Column - October 2017

What in the world could the Holy One have been thinking to pack FOUR major holidays into one month! Nevertheless, we Jews have been indefatigable in celebrating just those holidays: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah. As I write these words, we are still in anticipation of Rosh Hashanah. But by the time you read them, Yom Kippur will be over. The Book of Life will have been opened, our own lives reviewed, and the new chapters are just beginning.

That is where Sukkot and Simchat Torah come in. How wonderful to celebrate Sukkot, out on the TBT deck, in our wondrous Sukkah, set up by the Men’s Club and decorated by our Nursery
School & Religious School children. Sukkot reminds us of the beauty of nature and of its fragility. We are still post-hurricanes and continue to be awed if not overwhelmed by the ferocious power of wind and rain. (And no, it’s not too late to donate to the cause - my favorite one being NECHAMA, A Jewish Response to Disaster. You can give at

Every year at Simchat Torah, the unfurling of the Torah scroll throughout the congregation is an awe-inspiring wonder to behold. We end the Torah and we begin again. Simchat Torah
marks the conclusion to our season of new beginnings. We celebrate a new year at Rosh Hashanah, a new opportunity at Yom Kippur, a new harvest at Sukkot, and a new cycle of Torah at Simchat Torah.

Endings and beginnings. The order of these words is significant because it is indeed a cycle that we are celebrating.

Moadim L’Simcha - May the holidays still ahead of us be filled
with joy.
Rabbi Offner

President's Column - September 2017

Shalom. I am writing this column on a beautiful August summer afternoon. Summer.
Every year we look forward to it. End of school. Vacations. Beaches. Family time.
Time to read and reflect. Time to get long stalled projects done. Time to think about
the year ahead, to plan before the hectic schedule returns in September and summer
fades into memory.

Temple Beth Tikvah is no different. Its rhythms change in the summer. Our shift to 6:00pm Shabbat services on all summer Fridays has been well received, and we are making good use of the outdoors. Two beach Shabbats and a Shabbat “under the stars” on our patio have made use of the natural beauty that surrounds us and has brought our community together in new

It is also time, believe it or not, to prepare for the High Holidays that renew our spirits each year. The clergy are hard at work preparing meaningful services, volunteers are organizing children’s services, and the High Holiday choir is rehearsing. Our Religious Activities Committee, chaired by Heide Mueller-Hatton, is working closely with our clergy to bring it all together, and all congregants are welcome to participate in the work of that committee
and add their voices and ideas.

The Social Justice Committee, co-chaired by Sarah Mervine and Tina Silidker, have begun organizing a full slate of activities for the fall to help improve the world, as TBT’s mission statement dictates. At a time when our nation is experiencing hateful violence and we are bombarded with caustic rhetoric in the daily news, TBT does its part to celebrate humanity and assist all who are in need, whether it’s providing food to families, building homes, or collecting supplies for school children. Come to that committee’s next meeting on September 12th to help shape its agenda and contribute to its mission.

Our Programming Committee, chaired by Gary Damiano, is already working to design exciting programs for us this fall (stay tuned!), and Gary would welcome your assistance. And then
there’s our Education Committee, co-chaired by Peter Chorney and Deb Coe, coordinating closely with the Cantor to give us a school and curriculum designed to educate and enlighten our Jewish youth. The start of school is around the corner, and we have a full slate of teachers ready to inspire our children. Come add your input to this important endeavor. Several more
commitees are doing important work, to be discussed in future columns.

May the remainder of your summer be meaningful (and fun!).
Jeff Babbin

Rabbi's Column - September 2017

I am in my seat at the Metropolitan Opera House. The majestic crystal chandeliers start their rise into the sky. The spotlight reveals an elegantly attired conductor. The house falls silent, he lifts his baton, the orchestra begins. The music goes straight to my heart; I am enraptured by my favorite moment, the overture.

Selichot is the overture for our High Holidays. You don’t want to miss it. It is a truly breathtaking service. This year, with Mishkan HaLev, the new prayer book for Elul and Selichot, we can soar in spirit and reflection, in ways that are contemporary and traditionial.
The High Holiday season is somber and the work we do is heavy. How refreshing then to begin our overture with Mishkan HaLev, which works because it is rooted in joy and celebrates the opportunities the season offers us to change our lives. The name of the book itself - Mishkan HaLev - not only promises a connection to the other Mishkan prayers books in our lives, but also a focus on the heart - a joyful heart.

Yehuda Amichai’s beautiful poetry appears throughout the book, tying together both the ancient and the modern with timely, meaningful messages that are neither moralistic nor pedantic. One poem, “The Place Where We Are Right,” demonstrates this theme:

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

Mishkan HaLev helps open our hearts to the tasks at hand. I look forward to seeing you at Selichot Services on Saturday, September 16th at 7pm, when the new book will be in our hands as we open the gates of 5778.
L’Shanah Tovah Tikateivu,
Rabbi Stacy K. Offner

President's Column - Summer 2017

Meet our new Board of Directors President, Jeff Babbin.


When this issue of the Shofar goes to print, I will have just begun my term as the new TBT President. I am writing this column following the beautiful Board Induction Ceremony held at the June 16th Shabbat service. The service reminded me of what I love about TBT and why I have chosen to serve on the Board of Directors.

There are of course our wonderful clergy, Rabbi Offner and Cantor Margolius, who are starting their sixth and fifth years at TBT, respectively, and have infused TBT with their warmth, spirituality, and expertise. There is our intimate sanctuary, which emphasizes our congregation, with little distance between the clergy and the community of worshippers. There is our Board of Directors, who volunteer their time and energy to make TBT a thriving institution for Shoreline Jews to worship, learn, socialize, and celebrate life's milestones. There is our congregation, who bring TBT to life and whose commitment to our synagogue has been the reason why TBT has flourished as a communal venture for 40 years - and why it will do so for 40 more years and beyond.

We saw all of these same components come together at our recent 40th anniversary gala, attended by 200 congregants, and the 40th anniversary Shabbat service the previous night. One of the most moving parts of the Saturday night gala was the candle-lighting ceremony, with each successive generation of congregants collectively lighting a candle. I am in awe of the commitment of the founding members to create a shoreline synagogue, and we are fortunate that so many still belong to TBT. I am equally thrilled by the young families who came to the gala and are the new generation of TBT members.

I am looking forward to working with the clergy, the Board, TBT's office staff, and you - the TBT congregation - as we embark together on the next phase of our journey together.

- Jeff Babbin


Rabbi's Column - Summer 2017

Dear Friends -

The months of July and August are upon us and we are going to take advantage of these summer days with some special opportunities here at TBT.

First, I want to thank everyone who responded to my query about 6pm summer services. I was astounded by the enthusiasm that was registered by so many of you. Here is a smattering of responses so you get a taste:

"I like the earlier time for senior citizens."

"We might actually make it there with the kids if it was earlier. We like the idea!"

"We would prefer a 6pm start time."

"Our family would like 6:00pm summer services."

"Sounds like a great idea to me."

"Sounds good to me!"

Nevertheless, I was sobered by the responses from those who prefer
the 7:15pm service: "We would be unable to come."

"I prefer the services at 7:15."

"I am on a late schedule, so 6:00 seems rather early to me."

So what should we do? If this were a strictly democratic process, the answer would be easy. There were 91% in favor; 9% against. But the idea that moving the service to 6pm might preclude households from ever coming gives us pause. Then again, there were those who said that the 7:15pm service was too late for their family and precluded them from coming.

We wrestled with these issues at the Religious Activities Committee. We reminded ourselves that no decision has to be forever. We don't want to be afraid to try something new. We are speaking specifically about six services {3 in July and 3 in August) that would be impacted by the change. Our September through June schedule of First Fridays at 6pm and all other Fridays at 7:15pm still stands.

So...yes! We are moving to ALL 6pm services this July/August. All services at TBT will begin in the front hall with a "Pre- Neg" and the first prayers of Kabbalat Shabbat. At 6:20pm, we will move together into the sanctuary to complete our service. First Fridays will end at 7pm and others by 7:15pm so you can plan a leisurely Shabbat dinner following services.

 One more thing! Unsolicited by the poll, several of you also wrote "Don't forget Beach Shabbat!" Our July 7th service will be ON THE BEACH at East Wharf at 6pm, followed by an Oneg, hosted once again {with our great appreciation!) by Lisa & Eric Rich at their home which is around the corner from the beach. You can also note that our "Shabbat Under the Stars" Shindig will be on the TBT deck on Friday, August 25.

 Here's to a wonderful summer of Shabbat Services,

Rabbi Offner

President's Column - June 2017

This is one of my all-time favorite inspirational sayings. For those of you who don’t recognize it, these words from Pirke Avot, attributed to Rabbi Tarfon, may be translated as, "You are not required to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it." I have a beautiful calligraphy version of this statement hanging in my home office and positioned so that I can always see it from my desk as I’m working.

These words have taken on a particular poignancy as I reflect on my time as your President at TBT. Over the last two years, I have tried to be a responsible steward for our synagogue. I have worked to the best of my capacity to lead, inspire, goad (as necessary), nag (we are Jewish, after all), occasionally entertain, and always listen with openness, respect, and sincerity. I have made so many new friends; strengthened and enriched existing relationships; and occasionally, strained a few along the way as well.

I feel that we have accomplished much together, worshipped and learned and celebrated together; and yet there is still so much more to do. The work, indeed, is never done. The next group of synagogue leaders will pick up where this group has left off. It is a beautiful thing, to consider so many people allied in the service of one mission, the prosperity and vitality of our Jewish community, but it works only as long as YOU work. There is no "they" here; we ALL must do our part, step up in the service of TBT, if we are to thrive and grow. One does not require a long CV replete with experience in Jewish or other non-profit organizational life: the only job requirements are a desire to contribute and a willingness to partner with others. There are so many opportunities to serve here at TBT, at every level and at every degree of time commitment. Don’t be afraid. There is no better way to get to know our fellow congregants, make lasting friendships, learn more about Judaism, learn more about yourself.

I am immensely grateful to Rabbi Offner and Cantor Margolius, who lead by example, teach, and inspire us always; the wise counsel and deep commitment of the members of the Boards of Directors with whom I’ve been privileged to work; and especially Kim Romine and Bonnie Mahon, who never cease to amaze with their grace, kindness, positive attitude, and love for our House of Hope.

We should never take what we have here for granted. It is a special place filled with special people. Let us continue to build from strength to strength.

Stu Weinzimer

Rabbi's Column - June 2017

Editor’s Note: These remarks were first shared on the occasion of TBT’s 40th Annual Meeting.

On September 2, 1971, there was a short article in the Shoreline Times that changed the lives of each one of us. The article was headlined: "Jewish Congregation." The article read:

The Shoreline Jewish Community Congregation will meet at the Grove School dining

room on Friday, September 10th at 8pm. Those who have not been contacted may

call Mrs. Barbara Sklaire for further information.

Thus Temple Beth Tikvah was born. 46 years ago. Six years later, land was purchased and a building was constructed. This building. It wasn’t a given.

The founders - our founders - didn’t have a map with precise instructions. Should we build a building? Maybe we should just buy books. Bricks or books? Given the choice, I would choose books every time.

But maybe it is not simply a choice. Maybe we need the bricks to house the books. We need the building to house the people. We need a sanctuary that God might dwell amongst us.

I confess: looking back over this past year, there are moments when it doesn’t feel like God is present. Moments of strife. Moments of challenge. Moments of administrivia.

The holiest moments are so clear: when we filled this sanctuary to over-flowing for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. When we built our Sukkah out on our deck and packed the deck for services. When we had one of our largest Passover seders on record and filled this Social Hall with Pesach spirit and matza balls.

But God doesn’t need holidays to join us. Every time we have the opportunity to say hello to someone we haven’t met before, God is present. When we try new ideas, like our Jewish Mindfulness and Meditation practice, God is present. When we bring MahJongg into the library on Friday afternoons, God is present.

Our Religious School boasts over 100 children, our Sunday morning Tefillah is robust with singing and prayer. Our Nursery School children spell L-O-V-E with every smile. Our staff cares for each other and cares for you in ways beyond measure.

Bricks or Books? Building or People? A little 3-letter-word helps us answer the question. The word is A-N-D. Bricks AND Books. Building AND People.

We hope to care for our building by making it more welcoming, more inclusive, more accessible, and lighter, warmer, and more open.

Most important of all, remember that it only matters to the extent that we, the people, become more welcoming, more inclusive, more accessible, and lighter, warmer, and more open. I believe that we have grown in all of these attributes over the past year, and I hope we will continue the trend in the year ahead.

Rabbi Offner